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Donald Trump Presidency: the Most Successful President Ever?

7/15/2018 Anant Goel

After 18 months into his presidency, Trump Administration has become the most effective administration since FDR’s first term.

And it’s being accomplished in the face of the so-called “resistance,” which includes the overt hostility of nearly all the mainstream media, the embedded civil service, the Democrats, the never-Trump Republicans, rogue elements of the intelligence and investigative agencies and Robert Mueller’s investigation into charges of “collusion” with the Russians.

It may sound crazy, considering the “chaos” from the start of Trump Administration and the persistent controversy over crazy tweets involving alleged face-lifts of TV stars, horrifically ill-advised comments about white nationalists, alleged personal profiting off the presidency, supposed interference in criminal investigations and the connections of multiple members of Trump campaign and administration team to Russia ─ and more.

But when it comes to actual policy accomplishments tied to pledges he made on the campaign trail, Trump is actually doing pretty well – whether you like the results or not.

In my last article “Donald Trump’s Structural Reform of America”, I made some bold statements about Core Structural Reforms Expected under Trump Administration, which after 18 months of Trump Administration, have been accomplished or are well underway.

The Chaos

From its start, the Trump administration has been plagued by charges of “chaos.” From the revolving door of senior staffers — including two secretaries of state, three national security advisers and two chiefs of staff — to the president’s brash and sometimes boorish personal style, to his politically incorrect taunt-tweeting, Donald Trump has refused to conform to his political opponents’ conventional notions of what constitutes an effective White House operation.

And yet, the economy is humming, thousands of regulations have been rolled back, the unemployment rate is way down, job openings are soaring, taxes have been cut and reformed, tax bill passed to repeal Obamacare Individual Mandate, US April 2018 budget surplus rose to $214.3 billion, welfare programs have been reined -in, and black joblessness is at an all-time low. Prototypes for the wall along the Mexican border are being tested, raids by ICE are rounding up dangerous illegal aliens and the “travel ban” against several Muslim nations was argued last month before the Supreme Court, where the president’s authority over immigration will be upheld.

At the conclusion of Trump’s first year, the stock market and small-business confidence are at record highs, and consumer confidence is the highest in 17 years. Trump’s loud campaign promises to lure back capital and industry to the heartland no longer look quixotic, given new tax and deregulatory incentives and far cheaper energy costs than in most of Europe and Japan.

Trump has now ended 66 regulations for everyone he has added. Few believed a Republican president could cut the corporate-tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent while capping state- and local-tax deductions for mostly high earners to $10,000. Those are the highlights of a comprehensive tax-reform and -reduction agenda that will likely accelerate the economy to an even more rapid growth rate than Trump’s first two full quarters of annualized increases in GDP of more than 3 percent.

Hundreds of large companies are already passing along some of their anticipated tax cuts to employees through increased wages or bonuses─ dismissed as “crumbs” by House minority leader Nancy Pelosi. Rising workers’ wages and anticipated tax credits and savings for the lower and middle classes for now are rendering almost mute the age-old fights about state-mandated minimum-wage laws. The mostly unheralded nixing of the Obamacare individual mandate─ once the great ideological battlefield of the Affordable Care Act─ will insidiously recalibrate the ACA into a mostly private-market enterprise.

Domestic oil production is slated to exceed 2017 record levels and soon may hit an astonishing 11 million barrels a day. Gas, oil, and coal production are expected to rise even higher with new Trump initiatives to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge field in Alaska, encourage more fracking on federal lands and offshore, and complete needed pipeline links while encouraging coal exportation.

For all the political horse-trading over extending or ending the Obama executive orders on DACA, illegal immigration has declined according to some metrics by over 60 percent. It is now at the lowest levels in the 21st century─ even before the ending of chain migration and enacting of new border-security initiatives.

Trump has pulled the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord. He has pulled the U.S. out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. He has put the North American Free Trade Agreement seriously under the gun, with the likelihood higher than ever that Canada and Mexico will simply walk away from it due to American demands. He has made good on promises to vastly increase deportations of unlawful immigrants and curtail legal immigration. While the original iteration of his Middle East travel ban did not pass judicial muster, the revised third version was passed and is sticking. He has gone beyond rhetorical commitments to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and recognize the city as Israel's capital.

Perhaps most significantly, in his first year, Trump has gotten numerous conservative judges confirmed and in place. Neil Gorsuch is the most obvious example – his position on the Supreme Court could affect American law and jurisprudence for decades or more to come. But Trump has also put 12 circuit court judges on the bench, as The Washington Post notes, "the most during a president's first year in office in more than 100 years."

In foreign affairs, ISIS has been defeated with close to 100% of the territory librated, the two Koreas are talking to each other and a summit between Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un took place on June 12th in Singapore, and just a few weeks ago Trump yanked the carpets out from under the Iranian mullahs and canceled the nuclear deal negotiated ─ but never submitted to the Senate for ratification ─ by the Obama administration.

Yet there is one last thing that Trump could do to cement his legacy as one of the most successful president ever: Get Congress to pass legislation that protects DACA recipients, and avoid scuttling a deal to do so by attaching too many anti-immigration, restrictionists measures to a DACA bill.

The Hatred of Donald Trump

As much as the so-called “resistance” and the establishment hate Trump administration policies, the president’s enemies hate the man even more. Donald Trump’s words and actions offend the establishment on a personal, instinctive level. His opponents are the same folks who thought “Ike” Eisenhower was just a dolt who somehow won World War II. Who worshipped John F. Kennedy (but were repelled by LBJ), hated Nixon, thought Reagan was an amiable dunce and erected shrines to Obama. They are the Ivy Leaguers, the ones with credentials, the Georgetown establishment for whom there is only one right way to conduct a presidency, and that is the Harvard-Democratic-groupthink way.

Why Chaos and Unpredictability Works for Trump

What Trump understands, however, is what many great leaders have understood: that “chaos,” not consensus, is the way ideas are tried and tested… that if someone or something isn’t working, scrap it and try something else. Results are what count, not consistency. Trump’s ability to morph from saber-rattling lunatic to charming deal maker infuriates them because they see it as phony.

So what?

That doesn’t mean it isn’t also effective. Just ask North Korea’s Kim. Or ask Macron of France, who couldn’t be less like Trump and yet has developed a curious personal rapport with the brash American boss Trump, akin to that of a puppy around its master. Watch for France, Germany and UK to start edging away from the Iran deal as well.

Finally, Trump’s very unpredictability doesn’t just frighten the Washington establishment, it also terrifies his opponents.

North Korea’s Kim has declared he will suspend nuclear and missile tests, shuts down test site. The Saudis, following the strong American leadership, have made their hostility for the Iranian regime clear and are threatening to acquire their own nukes should Tehran overtly resume its nuke development. Having survived domestic uprisings in 2009 and 2017 by the restive Iranian young people, the graybeard mullahs of Iran won’t be so lucky a third time.

If that’s what chaos and unpredictability brings, then let us have more if it.

Trump Challenges Ahead:

Mid-Term Elections in 2018

The fall elections are shaping up as a big test for Trump, but he has already eliminated some of the thorns in his side, including House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate gadflies Bob Corker and Jeff Flake, who have announced their retirements. Should the GOP hang on to the House, a Trump-friendly speaker will move the legislative agenda forward.

Geopolitical

The big geopolitical test will be a resurgent China, whose new strongman-for-life Xi Jinping will prove a far more formidable adversary than a fading Russia’s Vladimir Putin. Look for Trump to resume his carrot-and-stick handling of Xi… flowers and chocolates one minute, gunboats in the South China Sea the next, and on-going trade talks to keep the pot churning.. The trick is to keep the Chinese guessing and thus proceeding with caution in order to keep the peace.

Foreign Policy and Defense

Now, going into his second year as commander in chief, here are the five most pressing foreign policy and defense issues Trump will need to deal with in the New Year.

·         North Korea

The Trump-Kim summit is an achievement in and of itself. But it could easily fail. Fortunately, Trump posses the upper hand thanks to his team’s adept use of all the elements of American power. If Kim balks, Trump should ramp-up the economic and military pressure. That’s what Kim fears, and Trump should that leverage to his advantage. Trump should hold off on sanctions relief until Kim takes real and irreversible actions toward denuclearization.

·         Iran

Right after Trump pulled U.S. out of the Iran Nuclear deal; Iran made a very provocative move when it launched rockets from positions in Syria at Israel. While there have been many incidents involving Iranian proxies like the terrorist group Hezbollah attacking Israel, this was the first direct attack by Iran on the Jewish state.

 

Israel did what any nation would do – it defended itself. It immediately retaliated with airstrikes that killed some Iranian fighters and destroyed a large number of Iranian bases in Syria.

 

Unlike during the Obama administration, when the U.S. regularly criticized Israel for exercising its right of self-defense, the Trump White House issued a statement that took the opposite position. The White House statement said in part: “The United States condemns the Iranian regime’s provocative rocket attacks from Syria against Israeli citizens, and we strongly support Israel’s right to act in self-defense. The Iranian regime’s deployment into Syria of offensive rocket and missile systems aimed at Israel is an unacceptable and highly dangerous development for the entire Middle East.”

 

One thing the Iranians would be smart to consider is the growing friendship between Israel and Saudi Arabia, which is largely based on the enemy they share in Iran. It would not be out of the question for the Saudis to join in responding to an Iranian attack on Israel, especially if Hezbollah is involved. The Saudis threatened to make war on Hezbollah late last year when the terrorist group fired a missile at the Saudi Kingdom from Yemen.

 

All of this has been brewing for quite some time, so the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal this week is not the cause. If anything, the lack of restrictions on the U.S. now should serve as a reminder to Iran that it’s a bad time to cause trouble. But we are dealing with an extremist regime run by radical Islamist fanatics, so a rational response is never guaranteed.

If the mullahs who rule Iran step too far out of line they could generate their own worst-case scenario. The U.S., Israel and the Saudis could decide it’s time to knock them completely out of the game and make a combined strike against their nuclear facilities and military.

Trump almost immediately voiced support for mass demonstrations in Iran, in a manner Obama failed to do in 2009. What is different about Iran’s internal unrest this time around is twofold. The Trump administration is not invested in any “landmark” deal with Tehran that requires ignoring protesters in the street. Trump also does not envision revolutionary and terror-sponsoring Iran as a “very successful regional power” with “legitimate defense concerns.” Rather, he sees Tehran, along with ISIS and al-Qaeda, as the chief source of Middle East unrest and anti-Americanism.

 

·         The Defense Budget

During the 2016 presidential race, Trump promised a massive buildup in the size of the military, with tens of thousands more troops, a 350-ship Navy and at least a hundred more combat aircraft.

 

While Congress has indeed authorized a nearly $700 billion defense bill, appropriators have yet to agree on how much of that will actually be funded.

 

The White House also needs Congress to lift the caps that currently rein in defense spending.

 

All of this is complicated by the administration’s yet unseen National Defense Strategy. Due in January, the strategy is needed to help justify why the military needs a boost.

 

·         Ongoing Conflict in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria

On the campaign trail, Trump promised to end “nation-building” missions such as efforts to train Afghan troops and stabilize the Afghan government so they can one day handle the Taliban and other militant groups on their own.

 

But over the summer, Trump changed his tune on withdrawing from Afghanistan, announcing a new strategy in August that includes an indefinite time commitment and sending thousands more troops to the country. The Pentagon started to send about 3,000 additional troops to the country in the second half of 2017, with 2018 looking to be a closely watched year for how the fledgling strategy shapes out. For now, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan said that the war in the country is “still in a stalemate.”

 

Meanwhile, ISIS — while ousted from its onetime twin capitals of Mosul, Iraq, and Raqqa, Syria, by U.S.-backed forces — remains a threat in the Middle East. The group may be on the run, but it still holds pockets of territory and inspires and encourages lone wolf attacks. Defeating ISIS is only part of the battle. Effort to create lasting stability in the two countries is now next on the agenda for the Trump administration.

 

Syria’s civil war and its leader Bashar Assad will likely be a challenge for Trump in achieving such stability. Empowered by Russian and Iranian allies, Assad has unleashed atrocities on his own civilians, including an April 4 chemical weapons attack that was met with Trump ordering a missile strike on an airbase in the country.

 

The administration also has yet to articulate what the U.S. role in Syria will be or how long U.S. forces will stay.

 

·         The Transgender Troop Ban Fight

The White House announcement by issuing a memo in August outlining the plan, which looks to bar transgender people from joining the military starting January 1st. But the move has been blocked in court, with two recent rulings that rejected the Trump administration's request to stall the enlistment.

 

The military, for now, must continue to follow the policies established by former President Obama's memo that allowed transgender individuals to enlist, but Trump administration lawyers are appealing the courts’ decision.

 

The military will be unprepared to begin accession on Jan. 1, the Justice Department argues. Expect the fight to continue in the New Year.

 

·         Terrorist Threats in Africa 

Terrorism and jihadist groups such as Boko Haram and ISIS remain a major threat across the Sahel, the belt of nations that run across Africa immediately south of the Sahara Desert and includes Chad, Sudan, Mali, Burkina Faso, Nigeria and, most notably, Niger.

 

That nation holds more than 800 U.S. troops within its borders and is the location of a botched U.S.-involved reconnaissance mission that led to the death of four American soldiers in October.

 

The U.S. presence, largely unnoticed before the incident, reveals a greater extremist threat in the region and urgency within the Trump administration to quell the militant groups.

 

To that end, the U.S. has been pushing to use armed drones in Niger, and Trump has given the military more authority to conduct strikes and raids in Yemen and Somalia.

 

But military leaders have stressed that the armed route is only a short-term fix, and the administration will need a diplomatic strategy to stave off terrorist groups. 2018 is likely to bring new challenges for the administration in dealing with threats on the continent. 

 

DACA Bill

Yet there is one last thing that Trump could do to cement his legacy as one of the most successful president ever: Get Congress to pass legislation that protects DACA recipients, and avoid scuttling a deal to do so by attaching too many anti-immigration, restrictionists measures to a DACA bill.

 

[Curated content based on excerpts from posts, blogs, media articles, and sponsored research]
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